Thursday, 3 September 2015

Seeing the Future of Beer

Did anybody see the craft brew revolution coming 20 years ago? Possibly. At least a few in the industry must have because they stayed, did what no one thought possible at the time, and ended up changing the industry. Now, here we are with an endless selection of microbrews within arm's reach no matter where you live. But will it last? In many ways we've seen this before; an explosion in the number of breweries followed by an inevitable period of consolidation. Many people have organised and displayed this on graphs and charts widely available so I won't bother repeating them here. Instead I'm looking at the bigger picture trying to see a pattern or trend. Admittedly it's a bit like reading a stock chart. A lot of information is contained in it and there are many variables to consider. In general one should never bet against the trend, but at what level are we looking at? How long is a piece of string? Supposing we zoom out and assume the macro, i.e. decades long snapshot, will hold true, that means consolidation is on the horizon. However while every chart follows a general trend, the specifics of each new period are never quite the same. The past century has been one of extremes. A large factor like prohibition is not likely to be repeated and there are those who point out that while the absolute number of breweries is currently high, on a per capita basis we've not yet reached the historical ceiling. Given that total beer consumption per capita has been trending down for decades, and the issue of severe lack of variety in the market of 25 years ago being thoroughly resolved, it is more likely that we are at the peak of the craft brew movement. From here we will see consolidation, though not as extreme as in the past. Small local brewers could be in for a tough time. Larger regional brewers should fair all right.  

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The Return of the 12 oz. Can

It seems like the beer world is shifting back towards the 12 ounce aluminium can. For years now, brewers have been embracing the 16 ounce or 'tall boy'. Craft brewers in particular (growlers aside) have practically unanimously offered their wares in this format. Over the summer while touring many retailers I began to notice what seemed like an uptick, at least anecdotally, of the retro smaller can. It was the large brewers who first began to introduce 16 ounce cans which were at first rejected by craft brewers. Then over time more and more local brands embraced this size until they became the norm. At this point any beer still offered in a regular can would have been maligned and relegated to discount brand status. Now however the tables are turning once again. We're seeing the macro brands returning to the smaller format. Not only that but we're even seeing a resurgence of some of the selections from the lighter end of the spectrum; an area that has been almost written off by the craft brew community. I have to admit, even this brew master opted for a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon on my recent vacation in the southern U.S. As the saying goes: when in Rome...  

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Defining Craft Beer

How do you define craft beer?
It seems everybody these days is a 'craft' something or other. But who or what defines the term? Is it simply a function of scale, or is it a measure of quality? I have to say I'm consistently shocked while visiting the various beer rating sites. Often I'll look up reviews of old world classic beers; you know, the ones that have been brewed for centuries in the same place or by monks who have taken a vow of silence. It's not uncommon to see these beers score fairly poorly relative to the newer and exotic upstarts. Not that new beers are bad, it's just that many of them are significantly unrefined compared to traditional offerings. Just scroll through any social media and you'll quickly come across pictures of these so called craft beers- and they're easy to spot: a pilsner that looks more like a Belgian wit for example. Belgian wits are excellent but I like my pilsners filtered crystal clear; dare I say the style demands it? Heck, given how many extremely cloudy bordering on lurid beers are on the market now, I'd settle for bright (no pun intended but it works). And what of those old German beers brewed according to the strictest brewing laws anywhere? Should they not be the gold standard or at least top of the class? Anybody can make a hoppy ale, but true craft lies in the details. Try brewing a light lager, the simple profile leaves you absolutely nowhere to hide. I think my point is best summed up by borrowing from a Top Gear episode where Hammond is reviewing a Cadillac: (paraphrased) "The Americans think luxury means simply making something bigger".

Bentley Brewers Supports The Beer Store

Bentley Brewers supports The Beer Store network. We believe it keeps prices down and selection high. True, customers won’t get the same ‘shopping experience’ they’re used to when buying cheese, or bread, but understand that The Beer Store operates at cost. Shopping experience costs the customer more. This is often what makes luxury products more expensive- the added effort to lure you into opening your wallet. 
We urge craft brewers to objectively look at the facts when it comes to beer distribution. We did, and we found the current system to be the most equitable network possible. Brewers get paid fairly for their products; have access to massive distribution, and customers get more choice than anywhere else. It should also be noted that contrary to popular belief, The Beer Store has NO authority over pricing. This is entrenched in provincial law. As a brewer I negotiate the price with the LCBO.  That’s how it works.
At Bentley Brewers we have decades of experience working with several major retailers in this province.  In fact, anyone who has lived in Ottawa or Eastern Ontario for more than 5 years is virtually guaranteed to have had our Brew master’s products on their dinner table. His products have also made it as far as Europe and the southern U.S.
It is this experience and knowledge of retail and distribution economics that have led us to conclude that while it’s not perfect, The Beer Store has a lot going for it. TBS has been fair trade before the term ever existed.